Leeds United fans could soon see safe standing at Elland Road as legislation shift is tabled
The government is planning to reverse legislation which prevents fans from standing in football grounds, according to reports.
Since 1994, fans have been required by law to stay seated during football matches following the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, when 97 Liverpool fans died in an incident of progressive crowd collapse.
The capacity of the North Stand at Elland Road was consequently cut from 17,000 down to 7,000, and standing during the game has not been allowed in the twenty years since.
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“Persistent standing in seated areas whilst play is in progress is strictly forbidden and could result in ejection from the ground, which may lead to possible further action by the club,” reads Leeds United’s current terms and conditions of ground entry.
But since standing persists in all parts of the ground, most notably in the South Stand, Leeds United Supporters’ Trust have been working with the club towards the installation of rail seating.
Rail seating incorporates a waist high rail into each row of seats, which fans can lean on as they stand. This means standing fans take up as much space as seated fans and so avoids overcrowding, and in the event of falling, fans fall onto the railing rather than onto the fans in the row in front of them.
Liverpool are one of several clubs to install some of the new seating over the summer, introducing 7,800 such seats across the Kop and the bottom tier of the Anfield Road End.
In August, Liverpool invited some of the families affected by Hillsborough to see the new seating. While the victims’ relatives have had concerns over standing ever since the disaster, there is a growing acceptance of the government’s plans to change legislation.
“People's opinions have changed,” said Margaret Aspinall, whose son died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster. “You've got to move forward with the times."
Liverpool hope to be one of a handful of clubs selected for a trial of safer standing, which could be introduced by the end of the season. The clubs picked would be granted an updated licence and, if the early trials are successful, legislation would be changed to permit standing across Premier League and Championship grounds all over England, as reported by the BBC.The move comes as the Conservative party look to honour a commitment set out in their 2019 election manifesto.
Now the government is working with the regulator, the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA), to proceed with the change, which is expected to begin with an announcement as soon as next month.
The SGSA will oversee the application process by which clubs put themselves forward for the trial.
"It's the sensible thing to do,” said Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, in an interview with the Times. “Because fans are standing all the way through [games] anyway, and you can do it in a safer way.
“We need to make sure we get this right.
"We're engaging with the police and others, but we'll get to the stage this season where we'll see safe-standing, at least in pilot form."
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